Fox News has something called a Workplace Professionalism and Inclusion Council (WPIC), a mechanism to stamp out the sexual harassment and retaliation that dogged the tenure of now-deceased Fox News chief Roger Ailes. The WPIC has several meetings a year, and its next session will have a full agenda.
Reporter Yashar Ali revealed in HuffPost on Thursday night the contents of lewd text messages sent by George Murdoch, a.k.a. Tyrus, a Fox News contributor and a host on streaming service Fox Nation, to Britt McHenry, a Fox Nation co-host who formerly worked at ESPN. The texts span the period from November 2018 to January 2019 — the launch period for Fox Nation. “Just pull your boobs out now why don’t you. Just grin and bare it,” said one of the messages surfaced by HuffPost. Another: “keep being negative and I’ll send you another dick pic.”
Tyrus and McHenry had co-hosted a show on Fox Nation titled “Un-PC.” But Tyrus disappeared from the show in April without explanation. The Daily Beast last month revealed that the quiet rearrangement of Fox Nation programming happened after McHenry had complained about the conduct of Tyrus, a former professional wrestler who wears unconventional clothing for his TV appearances. A subsequent Daily Beast article reported there was a sexual harassment component to McHenry’s complaint.
Fox News issued a statement to the Daily Beast: “While we are not at liberty to discuss the details of any employee matter, we follow strict protocols when matters such as these are brought to our attention, and we make no exceptions,” it said regarding Tyrus and McHenry, who is also a Fox News contributor. “The process works because of the extensive systems and measures we have instituted. This situation was independently investigated and we consider the matter resolved. We respect the confidentiality of all involved.” That alleged institutional commitment followed the scandals that erupted after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes in July 2016 for sexual harassment. He was gone quickly. Onetime King of Cable News Bill O’Reilly also lost his throne to a number of settlements with female colleagues who complained that O’Reilly had harassed or harangued them. Both Ailes and O’Reilly denied the allegations; they received a combined $65 million in exit money.
Amid the turmoil, Fox News and its then-parent company, 21st Century Fox (now Fox Corp.), pledged to rebuild its entire HR apparatus, which had failed the news outlet during the Ailes era. Rather than serving as an avenue for addressing complaints from staffers, HR was a wholly owned subsidiary of Ailes himself, silencing and derailing employees who raised concerns. Those employees learned to keep their mouths shut. To banish that history, Fox News hired Kevin Lord — an HR executive with experience at Tegna, NBC News and General Electric — to manage its HR division and changed lines of reporting to prevent a recurrence of the corruption under Ailes.
The WPIC — an oversight panel including four independent executives — stemmed from the company’s settlement with a shareholder concerned with its management legacy.
What have those changes wrought?
The public record doesn’t smile on the company’s actions. As noted in Ali’s article, the response of Fox Nation to McHenry’s complaint was to draft a substitute co-host, Tom Shillue, for “Un-PC.” As for Tyrus, the company didn’t suspend him — a best-practices measure in HR — but rather moved him to his own Fox Nation program, “Nuff Said.” On his July 10 episode of “Nuff Said,” Tyrus chatted with Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy “about battling the NFL, critiquing pizza, and embracing his petty side.”
A Fox News spokesperson issued this statement to the Erik Wemple Blog: “As we have previously said, this matter was immediately and thoroughly investigated by an outside law firm that was charged with providing us with independent factual findings and recommendations for action based on all of the evidence. We have consistently done this in other employee matters of this nature. All protocols were followed and the recommendations we received were appropriate and promptly implemented. We respect the confidentiality of our employees and their involvement in any HR process and therefore will not comment on the results of the investigation.”